Author’s content note: My 2020 Christmas short story here is a gentle romance mostly rated G for all, with some dramatic moments. I will serialize my story here and on my Wattpad site. Then I’ll continue with publishing new chapters about every other day through New Year’s Eve. I hope that you enjoy my new story.
Illustrations: I cast my stories as I write them, with Richard Armitage as Luke Wharton, Erin Krakow as Diana Groves, Thomas Brodie-Sangster as Benjy Groves, Helen Hayes as Martha Lesley, Anna Knyazeva as Heidi Wharton, and others as noted in the references.
“Of Magic & Mistletoe”, Ch. 02: Christmas Magic
It turns out this chilly, blustery, and snowy Dec. 20th , 2010 Monday afternoon for Martha’s trip with Diana and her 4 year old son Benjy to Christmas Village during her Care Receiving session. And Martha’s car has been sitting undriven for several weeks, outside in the cold—since Martha doesn’t drive anymore. Or more to the point, Martha isn’t allowed to drive anymore. But Diana is happy to see that Martha’s car has plenty of gas in it. So after Diana warms up the car a bit with the engine running for five minutes, she gets the car warm enough for Martha’s outing to Christmas Village with her and Benjy.
Their destination of Christmas Village is in a large and older indoor mall converted for multi-use purposes with: walkers, seasonal farmer’s markets, craft shows, and seasonal holiday celebrations retail—the biggest of which is the Christmas season—which takes up most of the 20,000 square foot mall’s large central corridor. And the extra foot traffic helps boost the sales of some of the remaining permanent retail shops still inside the mall.
After parking the car and retrieving from the car’s trunk Martha’s rolling walker with a handy seat for her to use when she gets tired–and an attachable basket for the front for small purchases–Diana, Benjy, and Martha look inside the indoor tree barn of Christmas trees, wreaths, decorations, small gift items, some kid craft stations, and an unofficial post box for Christmas Letters to Santa.
And there is also a Picture with Santa booth for a small fee. But even small fees are not within Diana’s ability to pay them at the moment, as she has to wait four more days till Friday, December 24th—Christmas Eve—for her next paycheck. So she is managing her money and her and Benjy’s food needs very closely this week.
Benjy: “Ooooh! Mommy! Everything looks so pretty here!” Little Benjy’s [(2) below] eyes are agog with all of the Christmas sights and smells—from the twinkling Christmas lights overhead, to Christmas trees, to decorations and gifts for sale.
And just as thrilled with the festive atmosphere, Martha’s old blue eyes sparkle with delight.
Martha: “Everything looks lovely!” Martha sighs [(3) below], remembering fondly how she used to festively decorate her modest home when her late husband Frank was alive. She misses him dearly around the holidays. Her widowhood is one more way that Martha and Diana bonded with each other—sharing their sorrows and their wonderful memories.
But today is a fun afternoon to be spent at the magical Christmas Village shoppes.
Diana: “Now remember, Benjy, we will look with our eyes, but not with our hands. So no touching anything.” Diana puts her own hands into her pockets to reinforce that for Benjy—she will also do what she asks of him. And even if Diana had some mad money to indulge in to buy some of the lovely Christmas decorations, she would still admonish Benjy to be careful. And she wryly muses that maybe there should be an inexpensive insurance rider policy for toddlers and their antics. For four year olds like Benjy, breakage is inevitable.
Benjy: “I know, Mommy!” And he also puts his mitten covered hands into his coat pockets. Benjy is a good little boy who minds his Mommy.
There are several Christmas Village tree barn clerks scattered about the large tree barn indoor shopping area—with a hay bale or two brought in as seating for ambience. And one of the clerks—a very tall and lanky fellow named Luke—lopes over their way, while still keeping a keen eye on the kids at the coloring station. Well, he watches one kid, in particular, his own young daughter Heidi. Kid’s activities are such a blessing for parents at family friendly shopping venues like Christmas Village.
So Luke brings his 4 year old daughter Heidi in to his Christmas Village volunteering stint with him now and again, when she isn’t with their other family. It gives Heidi a special outing and it gives Luke a chance to spend more time with her. You see, in addition to Christmas Village’s full and part-time paid staff, several companies loan out their employees and match their volunteers wages pay via donation to a local charity for kids in need.
Luke: “Hello, I’m Luke Wharton. May I help you ladies find something?” Luke asks smiling politely [(4) below] in his festive red and black plaid flannel shirt over a black sweater, and blue jeans as he somewhat shyly keeps his hands stuffed into his front jeans pockets. Then Luke ties a Christmas Village work apron around his waist with front pockets stuffed with tags, markers, etc.—and he tops off his look with him wearing a Santa hat. Luke is at the beginning of his 1 hour volunteer shift this afternoon.
Benjy: “Me, too!” Benjy smiles brightly at the very tall man as Benjy leans back into his Mommy Diana’s legs and she reassuringly pats Benjy’s shoulders. Then Benjy notices the Santa hat on Luke. “Mister, are you Santa?”
Luke collapses his very tall frame and he scrunches down to the little Benjy’s level, so as not to tower over the young boy.
Luke: “Well, little fella, I’m not Santa. But you could say that I am a Santa’s Helper this Christmas season.”
Benjy: “Ohhh!” Benjy’s eyes are wide with awe—to meet someone who works for Santa Claus. Though Benjy thinks that the very tall man must not be one of Santa’s elves, who are small like Benjy.
Martha: “Well I’m Martha, and these are my neighbors Benjy and his mother Diana.” Martha gestures to them and Diana blushes slightly—because Luke is a very handsome man and he seems to have an ease with children.
Luke: Luke touches the brim of his Santa hat with a slight head bow. “Ladies, and young fella.” Luke smiles broadly at the cute little boy, guessing that he is not much older than his own little daughter sitting just a few feet away.
Martha: “I am looking for a small one foot table top sized tree and trimmings for my apartment.”
Luke: “Well, Ma’am, you’re in luck! Our small trees and trimmings section is over here.” He gestures for them to precede him and he pats his daughter Heidi’s head as he passes by her. Heidi smiles up at her tall and loving Daddy as they exchange smiles.
Diana: “These are lovely decorations!” Diana enthuses, spying some pretty ivory angel snowflake ornaments.
Martha: “They are, Diana Dear. Let me buy something for you and Benjy, too.” Martha suggests as she touches an 18 inch tall artificial–but very really looking—Christmas tree with a solid heavy base, so it won’t tip over when laden with trimmings.
Diana: However Diana replies sotto voce to Martha—so that Luke won’t hear. “Oh Martha, that is a very kind thought. But you know that as your Care Giver, I cannot ethically receive gifts from you.”
Martha: “Of course, Diana. I just want to be able to give you something from me, as a friend.” Martha pouts.
Diana: “Martha, Your friendship is all that Benjy and I need. And you have given us something—this outing today.” Diana hugs Martha in thanks.
Then Luke’s daughter Heidi wanders over to show him her drawing.
Heidi: “See, Daddy! I dwew a Kwissmass twee.” Translation, I drew a Christmas tree. Heidi is a sweet and beautiful little girl [(5) below]. And her R’s are still a little difficult for 4 year old Heidi. So she sees a speech therapist twice a week to help her with her speech development. And so far, she is the only girl grandchild of her Gwanny’s/Granny’s.
Luke: “Excuse me, ladies. This is my daughter, Heidi.” Luke turns from Martha and Diana, and bends down to little Heidi’s four year old height. “That is a really great Christmas tree, Heidi Sweetheart!” Luke hisses her forehead, then hugs her.
Benjy watches Luke intently, mesmirized to see a father and daughter together—since Benjy doesn’t have a living father. Diana then notices the ring on Luke’s finger on his left hand, and disappointedly realizes that he is married. Then another Santa’s Helper clerk walks over toward Luke and his daughter Heidi. The Santa hat and Christmas Village apron are the big tip offs that she is also a clerk.
Sharon: “Luke, shall I take Heidi home with me? I’m heading home now because I have to feed baby Eric soon. And I imagine that Mom is fretting on me getting back in time.” And she can picture her cherubic four month old screaming for his Mommy’s milk in about 30 minutes.
And Diana winces at the happy family scene that they represent, her thinking that this must be Luke’s wife. And with them having another baby at home, Diana doesn’t begrudge them their happiness, she simply wants a family with a father for Benjy again someday—and maybe another baby for her to love. And Martha notices Diana’s subtle clues of interest in Luke, then her dashed hopes.
Luke: “Sure. That would be…” But Luke doesn’t get further, when a little voice interrupts him as Heidi tugs on his hand.
Heidi: “But Daddy, I’m not done playing Kwissmas here. I hafta make an omament (ornament) and wite (write to) Santa.” She pleads as she pats his knees—which is as high that she can reach.
Luke: “Sure, Heidi Sweetheart.” Luke pats Heidi’s back and smiles down at her. Then he turns to Sharon. “Sis, that’s okay, my volunteer shift is a short one today and over in an hour. So I can bring Heidi home with me then.” He leans in and gives his sister Sharon a gentle hug, and she returns his hug.
Sharon: “Okay! See you later, Heidi.” She and Heidi wave goodbye to each other as Sharon departs.
Sis, as in sister. Diana smiles inwardly that somehow manifests itself in her hopeful smile [(6) below]. Yet she thinks that though this lady might not be Luke’s wife, he might still have one—his wedding ring, and all. Or, she wonders, if he is divorced. She blanches at that thought for some reason. Diana thinks that as sad as losing her husband was and continues to be, being divorced and seeing your ex spouse only at kid visitation times must be extra tough.
Luke: Now holding his daughter’s hand, he explains. “Folks, excuse me for a moment while I get my daughter settled at the tree ornament kid station. Would the little fella like to join her?” He gestures to Benjy. “Then I’ll come back and assist you with your purchase.” He smiles cordially at Martha.
Martha: A smiling Martha nods. “That’s perfectly fine. Diana, did you wish to accompany Benjy to the ornament making table?”
Luke: Seeing Diana’s hesitation, he explains. “All the kid stations are easy for little ones to do, and there’s only ribbons, tree branch leavings, and glitter glue—nothing dangerous, and only minimally messy.” Luke sheepishly shrugs his shoulders and smiles at the lovely Diana—him also noticing her wedding ring, and wondering where her husband is. “This is my daughter Heidi. Heidi, this is Diana and her son Benjy.”
Diana: “Of course. Thank you. Benjy, would you like to make a Christmas ornament with Heidi?”
Benjy: He nods at his Mommy. Then Benjy leans over to look at Heidi’s Christmas tree drawing. “Nice Christmas tree.” He nods at Heidi.
Heidi: “Thank you.” She preens at the little boy’s compliment.
Benjy: “I’m Benjy.” He points to himself with his thumb. “And this is my Mommy.” Benjy takes his Mommy’s hand.
Heidi: “I’m Heidi.” She points to herself as Benjy had done. “This is my Daddy.” Heidi smiles up at her loving and kind Daddy. Then her face saddens forlornly. “I don’t have a Mommy.”
Heidi loves her Daddy, Aunt Shawon/Sharon, and Gwanny/Granny. But Heidi misses not having a Mommy. And Luke moved in with his Mom, in part to give his daughter a womanly influence, as well as to help his Mom out. But having one’s own Mommy for cuddles and kisses to scraped knees, making cookie baking messes, and specially made Halloween costumes and such is just what a little girl like Heidi wants—and frankly, what she needs.
Luke: “There, there, Heidi Sweetheart.” Luke kneels down to Heidi again and embraces her. “Your Mommy loves you very much. Remember, she is your Angel Mommy in heaven.” Luke consoles his little daughter with his soothing deep voice and loving smile. Luke is doing the best that he can with Heidi—and he is a wonderful father. But she needs a mother.
Diana: “Ohhh! I’m so sorry for your loss.” She says sincerely, knowing how difficult it is to lose a loved one, and your child’s other parent.
Luke: “Thank you.” Luke nods to her with a stoic facial expression that he has perfected over the last four years since he lost his wife in childbirth.
Benjy: “My Daddy is in heaven, too.” Looking at Heidi, then his Mommy, Benjy purses his lips together as he tears up. The palms of his little hands wipe away his tears. He was only two years old when his Daddy died. So Benjy doesn’t remember what it was like to have a Daddy.
Diana: “Oh Benjy Dear.” Diana kneels down and takes Benjy into her arms.
Luke: “Ohhh! Now I’m sorry for your loss. You have my deepest condolences.” He stands up again.
Diana: “Thank you.” Diana stands up again.
Now Diana’s face also assumes a mask of stoicism. Neither Diana nor Luke fool the other about their deep loss and grief—for they have and are feeling and living it themselves as they parent their little ones.
There is a slightly awkward pause as Luke and Diana each privately ruminate about their respective widowed states.
Benjy: Always one to fill a silence, Benjy suggests brightly. “I know what we can do, Heidi.” Heidi tilts her head in curiosity, waiting for Benjy to continue. “I’ll share my Mommy with you, and you can share your Daddy with me.”
Heidi: “Okay!” She smiles hard, grinning from ear to ear. “Your Mommy is pwitty (pretty).” She wanders three feet over and hugs Diana’s knees. And Diana reflexively soothingly pats the little girl’s back.
Benjy: “Great! And I like that your Daddy is tall.” Benjy detaches himself from his Mommy and hugs Luke’s knees. Although in Luke’s case, he looks like he might topple over from surprise.
Diana and Luke are too stunned and embarrassed to speak—out maneuvered by two 4 year olds. So each of them pats the other parent’s child’s backs and then walk the kids over to the ornament making station.
Diana: “Luke, I’ll stay with the kids while you help Martha.” Though Diana will remain watchful of Martha, to make sure that she doesn’t become flustered or too tired from standing. Martha does have her rolling walker chair with her that she can sit on.
Luke: “Thanks, Diana! Let me know if you need help with the kids.” Then Luke walks back to Martha, looking over his shoulder once and seeing Diana tending to both her son Benjy and his daughter Heidi. Both kids look very happy—and Luke is especially happy for his little daughter Heidi, whatever may come of this new acquaintance with little Benjy and his Mommy Diana.
And the smile on Martha’s face cannot be contained. Martha taking Diana and Benjy on this Christmas Village outing and meeting Luke and his daughter Heidi might be just the serendipitous catalyst for love between Diana and Luke and their children.
And who is to say that a little Christmas magic isn’t involved, as Martha looks up at the brightly twinkling Christmas lights hanging from the indoor mall’s Christmas Village tree barn ceiling? And romantic at heart that she is, Martha thinks that all they need now, is some well placed mistletoe.
To be continued with Chapter 3
References for Ch. 02 of “Of Magic & Mistletoe”, December 22, 2020 by Gratiana Lovelace
1) “Of Magic & Mistletoe” story logo cover that I/Gratiana Lovelace created, is comprised of several elements:
a) Luke—at full height, is Richard Armitage smiling at the 2019 Sundance Festival wearing red & black plaid overshirt_Dec21-2020 viaPinterest-Grati; image edit; original image is found at https://i.pinimg.com/474x/61/da/41/61da418236dba7895c883c32074e0e12.jpg
b) Mistletoe image and history found at https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.tillamookheadlightherald.com%2Fcommunity%2Fthe-history-of-holly-and-mistletoe%2Farticle_6d7751e2-9aab-11e5-ac05-cfbfafc221da.html&psig=AOvVaw0pTsPU6tMlqIj1Mh8qHTco&ust=1608640745445000&source=images&cd=vfe&ved=2ahUKEwis-PLyi9_tAhVnhXIEHSmEDVAQjhx6BAgAEBI
c) A textured red background that I/Grati created.
2) 4yr old Benjy Cls is Thomas Brodie-Sangster, found at https://i.insider.com/59a58d7db065da44008b47b0?width=750&format=jpeg&auto=webp, via a Games of Thrones actors article.
3) Martha in closeup is the late Helen Hayes; the original image was found at https://qt.azureedge.net/resources/authors-images-large/helen-hayes.jpg in conjunction with an article about her famous quotes at https://www.quotetab.com/quotes/by-helen-hayes.
4) Luke Wharton is Richard Armitage smiling at the 2019 Sundance Festival wearing red blk plaid overshirt (cropped), Dec21-2020viaPinterest-Grati; image found at https://i.pinimg.com/474x/61/da/41/61da418236dba7895c883c32074e0e12.jpg
5) Heidi Wharton is Anna Knyazeva with bangs; original image was from https://www.allure.com/story/6-year-old-called-most-beautiful-girl-in-the-world
6) Diana Groves smiling at Luke is Erin Krakow from a Blasting News article (image flipped); original image found at https://us.blastingnews.com/showbiz-tv/2019/10/when-calls-the-hearts-erin-krakow-sends-social-media-messages-of-support-sleeplessness-003003597.html
The link for the Ch. 02 on my Wattpad site, will be found at: